The Stella Interviews: Grace Chan
Congratulations on being longlisted for the 2023 Stella Prize! What does it mean to you to be included on the list?
I remember watching the longlist livestream last year and feeling awed and inspired by the work published by women and non-binary authors. The Stella Prize has always stood out to me as one of the most vital and exciting literary prizes in Australia. Honestly, I never even imagined that Every Version of You would be on this list. I’m honoured that this story, which takes so many different shapes—science fiction, relationship portrait, migration tale, dystopic future, philosophical musing—has connected with readers.
What was the first thing you ever wrote?
I wrote voraciously throughout my childhood. In primary school, I wrote a long series of books featuring four girls who went on crime-busting adventures and summer camps! In high school, I penned a bunch of fantasy stories, often in paltry imitation of whichever fantasy author I was enamoured with at the time. In those days, the internet was a magical place—you could post stories on fiction websites and reach an enthusiastic audience. My first published piece (in Going Down Swinging) was an anticolonial science fiction story called ‘The Dunes of Ranza’.
Your longlisted book, Every Version of You, has been described by Jemimah Brewster (ArtsHub) as “a deep and thoughtful…exploration of the spaces and boundaries between digital and physical selves”. What would you say are some of the central ambitions or themes of your work?
Jemimah’s review is very kind. The central question in Every Version of You is: How do you keep loving someone when both of you change in significant ways over time? There’s the tension between sustaining a relationship versus prioritising your individuality. Uploading a human mind may sound like a drastic, sudden change—but, in essence, is that so different from how one changes, physically and emotionally, over the course of a life, replacing our old selves with our new?
Tao-Yi’s character also grapples with what it means to be real. How do you feel real in a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, bodiless, detached from the physical, where market forces and algorithms dictate your life choices and proclaim to know you better than you know yourself? How do you feel real as a member of diaspora with so many lost memories, as a carer of a family member with illness, as a person in a caregiving profession?
Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process? How do you write, where, when, and on what?
My artistic process—if there ever was one—has been completely upended by the arrival of a little one. I have a newfound respect (though the term seems inadequate) for writers who are also mothers. I don’t write every day, but I do try to schedule in time for writing (and writing-related activities) at least a couple of times a week. I’m acutely aware the role of privilege in granting one time, space, and money to write; I am fortunate to have family members help to cook a meal, do the laundry, or babysit in order that I might write—tasks that almost always fall to the female members of the household, unless concerted efforts are put in place to resist such inertia.
I like to brainstorm and draft using a favourite pen and a notebook with buttery soft pages. I’ll do the bulk of the writing and redrafting on my laptop. Most of my work is done in my study, in the shadow of my bookshelves, looking out on a lemon tree in the garden.
What’s on your reading pile at the moment?
I’ve recently finished Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, A Life’s Work by Rachel Cusk, and A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer. I’m currently reading Unquiet Spirits: Essays By Asian Women in Horror (I have an essay in this), and Piranesi by Susanna Clarke.
Find out more about Grace Chan’s 2023 Stella Prize longlisted book, Every Version of You.